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hand the gigantic hammer of which he has read in the Runic poetry; and finally, he will ascend into the Scandinavian Elysium, or Palace of Valhalla, where he will behold the beatified warriors drinking mead out of the skulls of their enemies, administered by the fair hands of the Valkyriæ, those virgin Houris of the north, blessed with perpetual youth and never-fading beauty. Turning from the appalling sublimity of these cold, desolate, and warlike regions, let his fancy revel in the rich and sunny luxuriance of Grecian landscape, awakening from their long sleep all the beautiful realities and classical fictions connected with the glorious god of the Sun, the Apollo of the poets, the patron deity of Delphi and of Delos. How beautiful is the morning! Slowly rising above the mountains of Argos, the sun shoots a golden bloom over the undimpled waters of the Ægean and the sea of Myrtos, gilding every height of the Cycladean Islands, as if the very hills had caught fire to do honour to the quinquennial festival of Apollo, now celebrating at Delos. See! in every direction the green ocean is studded with the white sails of barks (like daisies in the grass) hastening to the ceremony, from Attica, Boeotia, and Thessaly; from Lesbos and Crete; from Ionia and the coasts of Asiatic Greece. As they approach, their crews are seen doing reverence to the sun, and the faint dulcet sound of flutes and hautboys melts along the wave.
Let me stop while I can, for I have got astride upon my favourite hobby-horse, and if I am suffered to proceed, I shall gallop to every province of Greece,
and visit every scene of jubilee, from the great Olympic Games to the Feast of Adonis, which the Syracusan gossips of Theocritus were so anxious to witness. Suffice it that a slight sketch has been attempted of a Sun-day among the people of Delos. Let us see how it has been celebrated by other nations. In Hebrew, the word Sabbath signifies rest; and the Jews fixed it on the Saturday, the last day of the week, to commemorate the completion of the work of creation, and the reposing of the Lord. It was not distinguished by a mere cessation from labour, but was enlivened by every species of rejoicing, they who took the most pleasure deeming themselves the most devout; and, amid a variety of puerile and superstitious ceremonies, they were particularly enjoined to lie longer in bed on that morning. If it were allowable to reverse the profane jest of the pork-lover, who wished to be a Jew, that he might have the pleasure of eating pork and sinning at the same time, I should be tempted to express a similar desire for the contemporaneous comfort of lying in bed and performing a religious duty. The Sunday, or Christian Sabbath, was appropriated to the first day of the week, in eternal remembrance of the resurrection of Christ; but was not strictly solemnized as a period of cessation from all business until about the year 321, when Constantine ordered its more rigorous observance, and interdicted all prosecutions, pleadings, and juridical processes, public or private. Of all the blessings ever bestowed on the world, it may be questioned whether any have been attended with more beneficial conse
quences to morals, health, and happiness, than the 'institution of a seventh day of rest, without which the lot of mortality, to the mass of mankind, would be hardly endurable. What contemplation so kindly, social, and endearing, as to behold the great human family linked by religion in one domestic brotherhood, and reduced to one common level, assembling weekly under the same roof to pour forth their gratitude to God, their universal benefactor and father? And yet how various have been the temper and spirit with which the Sabbath has been solemnized in different ages, fluctuating from the sternest self-mortification and the most inexorable rigour, to the opposite extreme of irreverend and licentious hilarity. Well might Erasmus say, that the human understanding was like a drunken clown attempting to mount a horse; —if you help him up on one side, he falls over on the other. The old Puritan, who refused to brew on a Saturday, lest his beer should work on the Sunday, was scarcely more ridiculous than the sceptical G. L. Le Sage of Geneva, who, according to his biographer Prevost, being anxious to ascertain whether the great Author of Nature still prescribed to himself the observance of the original day of rest, measured, with the nicest exactitude, the daily increase of a plant, to ascertain whether it would cease growing on the Sabbath, and finding that it did not, of course decided for the negative of the proposition. By statute 1 Car. I. no persons on the Lord's-day "shall assemble out of their own parishes, for any sport whatsoever; nor, in their parishes, shall use any bull
or bear-baiting, interludes, plays, or other unlawful exercises or pastimes; on pain that every offender shall pay 3s. 4d. to the poor." In 1618, King James, on the other hand, was graciously pleased to declare, "That for his good people's recreation, his Majesty's pleasure was, that after the end of divine service they should not be disturbed, letted, or discouraged from any lawful recreations; such as dancing, either of men or women; archery for men; leaping, vaulting, or any other harmless recreations; nor having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, or Morrice-dances; or setting up of May-poles, or other sports therewith used, so as the same may be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or let of divine service." A statute, the 29 Charles II. enacts, "that no person shall work on the Lord's day, or use any boat or barge;" and by the non-repeal of this absurd law, the population of London, on the only day when its labouring classes have leisure for recreation, are denied the healthy enjoyment of their noble river, unless they choose to subject themselves to a penalty of 5s.
Our own times have had their full share of this pendulating between extremes. To the lively Parisians nothing appeared more atrociously tyrannical, than that their restored sovereign should shut up the shops on a Sunday, and compel some little external reverence to the day, beyond the mere opening of the church-doors for the accommodation of a few devout old women. His pious inflexibility, on this point, had very nearly occasioned a counter-revolution. "Eh!
mon Dieu," said the Frenchman in London, when he looked out of window on a Sunday morning in the city, "what national calamity has happened?" The houses all shut up-the silent and deserted streets, forming such a sepulchral contrast to their ordinary bustle-the solemn countenances of the few straggling passengers, and the dismal tolling of innumerable bells, might well justify this exclamation in a foreigner; nor would his wonder be diminished, upon learning that this was the English mode of exhibiting their cheerfulness and gratitude to Heaven. What would such a man say, especially when he reflected upon the Sunday theatres, dances, and festivities of France, were he to be told that, even in these times, the lawfulness of shaving on a Sunday had been seriously discussed by one of our most numerous
The question was thus gravely submitted to the Methodist Conference of 1807: "As it has been suggested that our rule respecting the exclusion of barbers, who shave or dress their customers on the Lord's day, is not sufficiently explicit and positive, what is the decision of the Conference on this important point ?" And thus replieth that august body to the weighty interrogatory: "Let it be fully understood that no such person is to be suffered to remain in any of our societies. We charge all our superintendants to execute this rule in every place, without partiality and without delay." Poor human nature! how often, in thy failure to enforce these and other unattainable austerities, dost thou verify the lines of Dryden!